Kevin Allen, USA TODAY Sports
The NHL reacted on Monday to last week's breakdown of labor negotiations by canceling all regular-season games through Dec. 30.
A total of 526 games have now been canceled, plus the Winter Classic and All-Star weekend. No bargaining sessions are scheduled.
Players, meanwhile, would be expected to more seriously consider the union decertification option, as both NFL and NBA players did in their last collective bargaining agreement battle with their owners. The likely path would be for the NHLPA to file a disclaimer of interest, which essentially says the NHLPA no longer represents players. That opens the door for players to pursue litigation as a means to end the lockout through antitrust laws.
In the NFL case, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady became plaintiffs in a lawsuit.
Last Tuesday, there appeared to be a breakthrough when players and owners met without NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr present. Some moderate owners had joined the negotiating, including Tampa Bay's Jeff Vinik, Pittsburgh's Ron Burkle, Toronto's Larry Tannanbaum and Winnipeg's Chipman. NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr called it the best day the two sides had in negotiations.
The board of governors met on Wednesday, and there was a buzz afterward about the possibility of perhaps saving a 58-game season. But the negotiation process hit bumps Wednesday night.
The owners' made a final proposal for a 50-50 split of revenue, which included increasing their make whole offer from $211 million to $300 million, with $50 million earmarked for players' pensions. They backed off on their demands for changes in unrestricted free agency and arbitration eligibility. They kept their demands for a five-year limit on individual contracts, with an exception of seven years for teams trying to re-sign their own player, plus a 5% variance limit on salaries from year-to-year on a multi-year contract. They also wanted a 10-year CBA with an eight-year opt-out.
In making that proposal, the owners thought they made it clear that their offer was a package that they were only willing to make if the players agreed to the length of the CBA, the cap on contract lengths with the variance provision to prevent the back-diving contracts and recognition that there will be no buyouts or caps on escrow.
On Thursday, at 5 p.m., the players provided their response: They accepted $300 million, but then tried to negotiate the other issues.
Owners responded by pulling their offer off the table, pointing out that they had made it clear that was it was a package offer. The players, meanwhile, insist the two sides aren't far apart. But NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said the five-year cap on contracts is a "hill we will die on."
Now, the buzz of a 58-game NHL season has been replaced by both sides hoping they can save a 48-game season. Bettman has indicated that he would not go below a 48-game season. That was the length of the season after 1994-95 lockout.
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